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Teaching Profession

All teachers in Iceland are civil servants with the nature and length of training varying as a function of the educational level. Although preschool teachers are generalists and compulsory education teachers are specialists in one or more subject areas, at both levels, teachers must complete a three-year bachelor of education course of study. Upper-secondary teachers finish a four-year BA or BS degree in addition to 30 credits in pedagogy and didactics.

Teachers in Iceland's preschools complete a 3-year course of study that is two-thirds academic or theoretical and one-third practical at either the Icelandic College for Preschool Teachers or at the University of Akureyri. In-service training for preschool teachers is not officially mandated by law, yet preschool personnel frequently supplement their education after working for 3 or more years in a preschool setting.

Compulsory education teachers complete a three-year course at a teacher training college, and as with pre-school teaching, participation in in-service training is not mandatory. However, collective bargaining agreements enable teachers to attend training sessions.

Legislation requires upper-secondary general academic school teachers complete at least four-years of university-level education. A minimum of two years needs to be devoted to a major subject and one year to the study of education and instructional methodology. Teachers of vocational subjects must be qualified in their field or be a master craftsman with a minimum of two years experience working in the trade in addition to one year of study in education and instructional methodology. Teachers are paid by the state but hired locally. In-service training courses are held annually for upper-secondary school teachers.

Teacher education in Iceland has a history extending more than a century and leading to the founding of the Iceland University of Education. Legislation in 1997 resulted in the merging of three other colleges with the former University College of Education (founded in 1907). These three colleges were the Icelandic College of Early Childhood Education, The College for Developmental Therapists, and the College of Physical Education at Laugarvatn. There are two departments at the Iceland University of Education (the Department of Undergraduate Studies with five divisions and the Department of Graduate Studies).

The postgraduate program offers courses ranging from 15 to 60 units for professionals in education and social work. Study at this level is largely in the form of distance education, with a few periods of residency required. Students either complete their training with a diploma in Education (15-30 units) or with a Med degree (60 units). A full year of study is 30 units. Graduate students specialize in administration, curriculum and instruction, educational theory, special education or educational technology. Approximately 200 students are enrolled in graduate programs.

Icelandic teachers show considerable interest in keeping up with current developments in the education field. Most seminars, workshops, and in-service courses are well attended as are education conferences. A relatively large Institute of Continuing Education also operates within the University. The main purpose of the Institute is to provide education for professionals in education and social work. In addition, the Institute occasionally provides training for other groups and fosters research and development projects. There is a strong emphasis on distance learning and use of information technology within the Institute.

The Iceland University College of Education has approximately 170 faculty members and other permanent staff. All assistant, associate, and full professors teach and maintain a program of research. The University of Iceland has a Department of Education within the Faculty of Social Sciences. This Department offers a Teaching Certification Program designed to train lower-secondary and upper-secondary school teachers. The program is for four years (129 units) and involves specialized study in a particular discipline (BA/BS) along with one year of instructional methodology. An average of 50 students graduate from the program each year.

The University of Akureyri is the youngest of the three Universities offering teacher training. The Faculty of Education began operation in the Fall of 1993 with a BEd program for compulsory school teaching. A Pre-school Program and a Teaching Certification Program are offered as well. The Compulsory School Program has a special focus on science and training teachers for small rural schools. In 1998 the Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture released a report of an extensive external assessment of the Teacher Certification Program at the University of Iceland, the programs offered at the University College of Education, and both the Compulsory School Program and the Teaching Certification Program at The University of Akureyi. The review team, chaired by Dr. Benjamin Levin, Dean of the Continuing Education Division at the University of Manitoba, concluded that all three programs were making ambitious efforts to meet the needs of teachers in training. They commended the Icelandic institutions' use of information technology in teacher education training, concluding that efforts went well in comparison to similar institutions in other nations.

The team also identified areas needing more focused attention. For example, they recommended more long-range planning or a vision. Future aspirations seemed to be contingent upon the actions of others such as the Ministry, and the review team felt that the faculty at each institution should develop a public document outlining their plans for initial and continued training, graduate programs, and research. Other recommendations included greater coordination among the three institutions related to curriculum development, continuing education efforts, and access to and delivery of distance education, increased availability of computer facilities, the need for more active collection of student data, and improving conditions for research.

Teachers in Iceland have historically been relatively poorly paid by international standards. However, there is evidence that this trend is reversing. According to a wage contract, upper-secondary teachers with a BA or BS will receive a starting salary of US$2,083 rising to $2,380 by 2004. According to the previous contract, the minimum starting wage was US$1,309. Teachers with 10 to 15 years of experience will receive raises of US$773. The agreement also included fewer compulsory overtime hours. Although the status of teaching as an occupation has been rather low in the past, there is evidence to suggest that this is changing. One recent study of the vocational plans of Icelandic teenagers revealed that becoming a primary school teacher ranked in third place.

Additional topics

Education - Free Encyclopedia Search EngineGlobal Education ReferenceIceland - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education